“I think you’re always aware of ECS because of their journals,” said Jeffrey Henderson, a fourth-year PhD student at the University of Western Ontario studying corrosion, of how he first came to hear of The Electrochemical Society.
“At the ECS Canada Section meeting, that’s where I learned about things like the student chapters,” said Henderson, who called the conference small, comfortable, and inviting. “You can easily talk to all the students and the faculty, as opposed to some of the bigger conferences, where sometimes you go to a poster contest and the only people you talk to are judges, who mark you and then walk away.”
“The idea of having these conferences where you can make connections is great. ECS is quite engaging,” added Henderson. This led him to become a member of ECS in 2016.
This connection to ECS eventually brought Henderson an unexpected and very much welcomed career opportunity that resulted from attending an International Society of Electrochemistry (ISE) meeting.
“A professor there approached my poster, and we started chatting; he became quite interested in my research,” said Henderson. “And then he said kind of half-joking, ‘Would you be interested in coming to Paris and working together?’ And I said, ‘Of course, why wouldn’t I be?’ So I left the conference kind of thinking, ‘Yeah, maybe it’s a possibility.’”
However, that wasn’t the only thing up in the air. The high cost of travel to Europe made the invitation to Paris seem unlikely to become a reality.
It was around that time that Henderson received an email from ECS, reminding students to apply for ECS Summer Fellowships.
“I read it and said, ‘Oh, I might fit the bill here. I should apply to this.’ And then, things started to align. The next thing you know, I was in France,” said Henderson. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities with ECS.”
Opportunities which do not end there. While studying in France, Henderson received yet another life-changing email from ECS.
“I received an email from Yue Kuo, the president of ECS at the time. He essentially asked if I wanted to be part of the ECS Individual Membership Committee. And I’m reading this, thinking, ‘this looks a little fishy,’” said Henderson. “So I responded, ‘Sure. Can you provide me more details?’ Then he responded, and the next thing I know, Shannon Reed [director of community engagement] was in touch.”
At which point, he wasn’t so skeptical.
“Of course I took the opportunity!” laughed Henderson, when asked if he took the job.
“I found out that ECS offers student chapters financial support to host events on campus,” said Henderson, which he found particularly important to the research community.
“I’m sure most universities are similar to mine: you have all these research groups who’ve never met before. I do corrosion, but I might not know anything about spectroscopy. So with the help of ECS, we can bring research graduate students from different research groups together at events and make these inter-university connections,” said Henderson, describing why he felt it was important to bring this opportunity on campus.
One of these events hosted by the ECS University of Western Ontario Student Chapter included a graduate research symposium.
“Because it was kind of a low-pressure environment, people were more willing to show data and ask questions,” said Henderson. “This past year, we did it again, and we were actually able to get some additional financial support from an organization called the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, a Canadian-funded organization that looks after the disposal of nuclear waste. So that also helps build connections between students and industry.”
Looking back, Henderson says starting an ECS student chapter at his school was actually easy.
“Shannon Reed [director of community engagement] has been a huge help,” said Henderson. “Throughout the whole process, if I had any questions, I just emailed him, and he’d quickly respond with an answer.”
Henderson said one example of this, was when the chapter could not afford to pay for an event.
“ECS has this reimbursement process where a student pays, and then ECS sends back a check,” explained Henderson. “But as graduate students, we are scraping pennies, so to speak. When I approached Shannon with that concern, he said, ‘Not a problem,’ and was able to provide the funds.”
Henderson says ECS has been a huge help in that way and has always shown support for their student chapters.
Become an ECS member
Henderson’s story is unique, but the connections, opportunities, support, and encouragement he received from ECS are not. Where will your ECS membership take you?